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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 17:24 GMT
The Cuban invaders

From Cuba with love.... via Preston and Eastbourne

Astute followers of pop will know there's nothing better than combining music and the internet to get the media in a spin.

The Cuban Boys know this - and their cunningly-promoted single Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia, to be released on Monday, is now heavily tipped to be this year's Christmas number one.

The idea is simple enough - it's a sample of the music from the cult Hamster Dance website. In the gimmick-heavy Christmas chart, it is bound to be a hit.

But they are old hands to creating a stir with the press - in the summer of 1998, they set up a website and put a track on it entitled Diophantus Arithmetica. It was encoded with the name "Noel Gallagher", and it was heavily rumoured that the Oasis songwriter - no stranger to dance music himself - had teamed up with Paul Weller to create a secret dance track. The mysterious act played along with the rumours, teasing journalists with e-mails.

Not having a record deal didn't prove a barrier to success
The rumours were nonsense, but it didn't stop Radio 1's champion of alternative sounds, John Peel, from loving the record. A follow-up, Oh My God! They Killed Kenny, capitalised on the South Park cartoon for its title, and made number six in his Festive 50 - an annual poll to find his listeners' favourite tracks. Only after the success in the Peel poll was the track released, with just 500 copies printed.

In April 1998 the band sent a further selection of tracks to John Peel, and he immediately played Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia. In the summer, the group signed with EMI, and now a new version of the track is set to be their debut single.

Those hamsters: Cult hit on the web
The group started in early 1998 when Sussex-based schoolfriends Skreen B and BL Underwood, who were running a fanzine at the time, were contacted by brother and sister Jenny McLaren, and "Ricardo Autobahn", from Preston, Lancashire.

The four kept in touch, and e-mailed ideas about music to each other.

Skreen B, 20, said: "At every step of the way the internet played a part. If it hadn't been for e-mail we would never have even met because Jenny and Ricardo live in Preston and BL and I are from Eastbourne.

"We have to laugh when people say we are now going to beat Cliff Richard to number one. I mean, we are all only in our 20s and we just did the single as a bit of a joke. It was never meant to be a huge hit."

The single's success proves how the power of internet marketing has become a huge force - and reminds record companies they need to be able to harness this power if they want to survive.

Sir Cliff Richard may have said the success of his Millennium Prayer single - which was thanks, in part, to internet promotion - broke "every marketing rule in the book", but nowadays, getting yourself onto the web is among the first things new acts do of all genres do.

John Peel; An early fan of the Cuban Boys
Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) may - like Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia - have been panned by critics, but it also grew from an internet site.

Webcasts of bands' concerts are an almost-daily event now, and downloading music from the internet is now a practical reality for many.

Record companies are spending thousands on commissioning websites for their acts, or - such as Virgin in the UK - employing in-house teams to create sites and promote their acts on the web.

With the Christmas charts set to contain two singles (Cuban Boys and Sir Cliff Richard) promoted through the internet, and two inspired by mobile phones (Solid Gold Chartbusters' I Want To 1-2-1 With You and Mario Piu's Communication), then it is clear that something is happening to the music industry.

If 1969 brought flower power, 1979 showed off punk and 1989 spawned acid house, then 1999 has truly proved that new media really is the new rock 'n' roll.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  Talking Point
Are the music charts a joke?
08 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Singing hamsters threaten Sir Cliff
07 Jun 99 |  Entertainment
Baz storms the charts
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Stones cover enters festive race
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Michael brands Cliff campaign 'vile'

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